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Yes, I went skiing in this cold. Here’s how it went.

With temperatures falling below zero, the slopes at Pats Peak were wide open on Friday, February 3, 2023.Matt Pepin/Globe Staff

It was cold. Really cold. But it was also exhilarating to embrace the blast of arctic air that descended upon New England on Friday, which I spent skiing at Pats Peak in Henniker, NH.

For some of us, especially those who take pride in the New England ice water that fuels their enthusiasm for skiing or snowboarding, part of the fun is braving the elements. Friday was a double black diamond challenge.

Many ski areas chose to close, including Cannon and Wildcat in New Hampshire and Jay Peak and Bolton Valley in Vermont, and based on my experience with all of those places it seemed like a good call. They are rugged and exposed in ways some other mountains simply aren’t, and every ski area has its own variables with chairlifts and weather.


Other ski areas modified their operating schedules on Saturday as well, with some opening later, some restricting upper-mountain access, and some canceling night skiing.

But Pats Peak, which I’ve always thought skis bigger than it appears, spun two lifts and a magic carpet on Friday and that was all that was needed to handle a light crowd of diehards, really determined beginners, and assorted others. You could ski right up to the lift and have a chair to yourself every time.

The base-to-summit lift ride was chilling for sure, and there was a cool and stiff wind that hit you right in the back in the final third of the ride as the chairs ascended toward the peak. The readout on the digital thermometer/clock affixed to the lift attendant station hit minus-3 at one point.

The elevation at the summit of Pats Peak is 1,460 feet.Matt Pepin/Globe Staff

The good news is you had every trail to yourself, and often you could ski through freshly groomed lines, even late in the day. It was frozen granular in every sense of the term – icy and loose snow over a firm, crusty base – but you could carve through it with confidence.


Once you got going was when you really felt the cold. Fingers and toes got frosty first, and while my core stayed warm, the frigid air did seep through my ski pants and base layer, the first time in a long time I can remember that kind of chill. I knew from the start it was going to be a two-balaclava day, and it was.

On my first run, the mighty north wind announced its presence with authority, coincidentally on a sun-splashed trail named Blast. As I turned onto it, the icy gust blasted me head-on, and slowed me to the point of having to pole and skate a bit to get going again. This happened multiple times on multiple trails over the course of the day.

After doing five straight runs to start, I needed my first warm-up break, and every subsequent session on the slopes was shorter because the temperature kept going down and the wind kept kicking up. After visiting the fireplace in the lodge for my first break, I did runs in sets – two and then two more before lunch, then two-four-two-two for a grand total of 19 runs – with a lodge stop after each set.

There was no shortage of table space inside the lodge at Pats Peak.Matt Pepin/Globe Staff

Danger was high Friday and Saturday, and venturing into conditions like that is as foolish as it gets if you’re not prepared and smart about it. But extensive experience skiing in all kinds of conditions, including even more extreme cold than Friday, and a wide collection of top-notch, cold-weather gear balanced out the risk calculation for me.


There was a reward on the other side of the equation, as well: On my final two runs, both on a trail called Tornado, I skied top-to-bottom through untouched groomed snow just before closing time.

Matt Pepin is the Globe’s sports editor and a lifelong New England skier.